catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Death of an unsung Russian hero

with 24 comments

Thanks to a heads up from Jason in the comments, a feed to The Stump for links to tributes to Yegor Gaidar (yes, I know, Yegor who?)

Russia’s transition to capitalism was a painful one – given the state of its economy, it could hardly have been otherwise – and Gaidar got most of the blame. As the Times says, he was “widely considered to be the begetter of unconstrained market forces and anarchic society of inequality and corruption”.

It’s impossible to understand the appeal of Vadimir Putin’s benevolent authoritarianism without appreciating the traumatic effect of the 1990s experience. Both politically and economically, Putin has reaped the rewards of Gaidar’s reforms, and he appropriately paid tribute to him, calling his death a “heavy loss for Russia.” President Dmitry Medvedev also praised Gaidar as “an outstanding economist and statesman.”

Written by Rafe

December 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

24 Responses

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  1. In order to avoid any threats to my mother’s personal safety and sexual sovereignty, I will make no comment here about the name of this gentleman, mildly amusing though it is.


    December 23, 2009 at 5:02 pm

  2. Is this post ironic? Gaider was partially responsible for the impoverishment of millions of Russians. You cannot find a worse advertisement for a market economy than 1990s Russia. He’s regarded as a pariah by many in his homeland. Interestingly, the US recruited him for his skills in the economic ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq, which tells you all you need to know about both he and the invasion.


    December 24, 2009 at 12:38 pm

  3. and yet this is what a prominent anti-Putin critic writes about him:

    Because Gaidar didn’t like power, he considered economic reforms to be the most important task. In the end, the reformers and former President Boris Yeltsin fell hostage to the siloviki. They were hostages to corrupt and obstinate generals who started the war in Chechnya and to the Prosecutor General’s Office. That was why they needed to find a successor to Yeltsin who could rein in the Prosecutor General’s Office and the military. They found one from the ranks of the siloviki — Vladimir Putin.

    Gaidar was also a very courageous man. Although he didn’t hold photo ops in the cockpits of fighter jets or pose shirtless while fishing (for which he did not have an ideal physique), it was Gaidar who called people to the streets to rally in support of Yeltsin in October 1993 when armed anti-Yeltsin forces stormed the Ostankino television center. Unlike Putin, Gaidar did not hide from the television cameras for three or four days after every terrorist act. And if Gaidar had been president in 2004, I can guarantee you that he never would have ordered his Nalchik-bound plane to return to Moscow upon learning that Beslan School No. 1 had been seized by terrorists.


    December 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm

  4. “Nadia had few kind words for Yeltsin and his so-called ‘young reformers’, whose bold programs to transform the economy had wreaked such havoc on the ordinary people…Yegor Gaidar, the architect of ‘shock therapy’, had destroyed industry and agriculture while giving free rein to hustlers and crooks. And Anatoly Chubais, privatisation chief and former Chairman of the State Commitee for Management of State Property, had simply given away the nation’s vast assets.’

    p. 201, Traill, ‘Red Square Blues’.


    December 24, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  5. Or it was perhaps a race against another bolshie coup, THR.


    December 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

  6. I see the author you cite is a classical musician who made Race around the world, THR. What specific skills does she have to differentiate bullshit and political bias from a reasoned assessment. I bet if a foreign journalist toured around NSW she might get a rather tilted perspective of the last 20 years in Australia from a Barnaby Joyce constituent. so what?


    December 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

  7. The ‘anti-Yelstin’ forces of 1993 were not bolsheviks – they were pro-democracy protestors, against whom, Yeltsin and Gaidar handed themselves ’emergency powers’. Yelstin also effectively dissolved Russia’s entire parliament during this period, which is what led to the protests in the first place. Yelstin ordered troops to fire on civilians, resulting in hundreds of deaths.


    December 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm

  8. Traill is providing anecdotal evidence. I’m not claiming that it’s scientific. Anecdotally, every Russian I’ve ever met despises Yeltsin and his cronies. A survey found that Yeltsin was the most despised Russian leader in history, alongside Joe Stalin.

    There are plenty of other sources which examine what happened during the Yeltsin-Gaidar years. What is undisputed is that Yeltsin went from famously defending democracy to abolishing it, Russia experienced hyperinflation (about which Gaidar did nothing), and state assets were given to ‘oligarchs’ by way of a fire sale.

    There are some success stories out there for market economies. 1990s Russia is not one of them.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  9. THR
    In hindsight we know the reforms were badly handled. But there is little evidence Gaidar was corrupt or power hungry as that article suggests.

    Anyone nostalgic for the good old days is going to characterise the privatisation as ‘handing assets over to crooks’. There is also usually an anti-semitic subtext to such criticism as a lot of the people involved in privatisation were Jews.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm

  10. Or perhaps it’s another one of Harvard’s “success” stories, THR when one of the senior professors there advised Russia’s asset disposal.

    Compare and contrast that economic liberalization to Chile’s.

    The other major concern was fear, fear of another Bolshie coup and the panic to create irreversible reforms.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm

  11. THR
    The people who most hate the transition away from socialism you’ll find are usually the most nostalgic for Stalin. That’s why the Stalinists have teamped up with the ultra-nationalists now in Russia.

    The same people are usually behind the vilification of new entrepreneurs like Khodoskovsky(sp) most probably because Jews would have been disproprtionately involved in private enterprise in the first place and therefore would have been the earliest to get involved in buying State assets and the more nationalistic xenophobic Russians see this as a loss of control over what was formerly theirs.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm

  12. Nobody is nostalgic for the bad old days. Everybody knew the Soviet economy was grinding to a halt. I’m not sure why you’d naively believe something you read in the Russian media, which is not exactly known for free speech.

    Also, I’ve read several things on this, and I’ve never encountered any reference to the oligarchs being Jewish. The ‘reforms’ were more than ‘badly handled’, and Gaidar and Yelstin went, in a very short space of time, from being pro-democracy to supporting the murder of civilian protestors. Eulogising this scumbag is only for the deeply confused.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:10 pm

  13. only the most reactionary forces in Russia hark back to the “good old days” now.

    I have a little faith in the new young prez and if the thug Putin got out of the way he’d could achieve some everlasting political reforms there.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm

  14. The ‘reforms’ were more than ‘badly handled’, and Gaidar and Yelstin went, in a very short space of time, from being pro-democracy to supporting the murder of civilian protestors

    Frankly i always knew Yeltsin was a drunk, but I never heard of him as a mass murderer as you’re suggesting.

    Russia is a thugocracy which I think will take a lot of time to get out of their system. Politics seems to be a life and death game.

    No one is romanticizing the place, however Giadar was far less despicable than other characters there.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:15 pm

  15. The firm I once worked for had a large presence in Russia as we had the largest emerging markets operation out of all the i-banks.

    The emerging markets people always had decent things to say about Gaidar and he always took Russia’s interest first and appeared to be a totally honest dude by their accounts.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm

  16. Or perhaps it’s another one of Harvard’s “success” stories, THR when one of the senior professors there advised Russia’s asset disposal.

    Yes, a number of advisors from the US and other Western countries were involved in the despoiling of Russia. They too should share some of the blame.

    Frankly i always knew Yeltsin was a drunk, but I never heard of him as a mass murderer as you’re suggesting.

    Here’s Wiki on the 1993 showdown. If anything, it minimises the level of Yeltsin’s culpability:

    Note that Yelstin ordered the Russian parliament to be shelled, and also ordered the military to fire on civilian protestors. So yes, he is a mass murderer. And far from being an anomaly, this incident was the logical fulfillment of the Yeltsin team’s ‘reforms’, which were radically undemocratic from the very beginning.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm

  17. There’s also some confusion evident here, namely, this idea that there’s a diametrical opposition between the old regime and the reforms of the new. In reality, much of the old regime’s economic elite were able to use their influence and connections to become part of the new elite under Gaidar’s measures. Putin himself is a spectacular example of this, given that he was formerly head of the security services. So not only did the old Soviet cronyism persist, it was amplified on a massive scale, and during the same period, the Russian people actually became more impoverished by every measure.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  18. THR

    this wasn’t a place where you went to supreme court if a leg of government was over reaching. Politics is still done there at the point of a gun.

    You can’t just suggest Yeltsin was a prick without looking at what the other side was doing or what his forces thought they were doing.

    You’re judging these dudes in a western context, which really is wrong.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:34 pm

  19. THR
    for all your accusations of yeltin being anti-democratic he didn’t institute a dictatorship. Putin is a thug and may undermine things yet but Yeltsin didn’t leave behind a one party state. He simply wanted a more presidential system of government. The Russians still have free elections. Gaidar’s daughter is part of the liberal opposition.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:47 pm

  20. Not at all. Look at the article cited by Jason – Gaidar and Yelstin are rewritten into a revisionist thesis whereby they were pro-democracy in 1993. In reality, they were supporting mass theft and mass murder. There simply isn’t a single positive thing you can say about Yeltsin or his cronies. It can’t be blamed on some inherent ineptitude for democracy that Russians supposedly have. The fall of the USSR was a trememndous opportunity for genuine reform and transformation, which degenerated into unmitigated farce and cronyism. The best comparison for this era would be along the lines of the Great Leap Forward, except that this was a free market version.


    December 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm

  21. for all your accusations of yeltin being anti-democratic he didn’t institute a dictatorship.

    What about shelling your own parliament? Is that the Russian version of a double dissolution?


    December 24, 2009 at 1:52 pm

  22. sorry if Gaidar had have taken the money and run like Yeltsin you would have a case however he hung around in a party promoting market based policies which garnered few votes

    Butterfield, Bloomfield & Bishop

    December 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm

  23. where are the concrete results of the dictatorship planned by Yeltsin THR? Russia isn’t run by free market Gaidarists at the moment. It has elections and opposition parties.


    December 24, 2009 at 2:59 pm

  24. Russia was brought to the brink of collapse, so Yeltsin and his cronies engineered for Putin to takeover. Putin’s first act as leader was to exonerate Yeltsin entirely. That Yeltsin was too incompetent to hold on after his coup does not mean that the coup itself didn’t happen. And Yeltsin and Gaidar were undemocratic – Russians repeatedly rejected their ‘reforms’. Recent elections in Russia wouldn’t be considered democratic in even the most shambolic of Western nations, and Russia lacks a free press altogether. Every half-hour news show literally spends 10-15 minutes each day documenting, in fawning detail, the daily activities of Putvedev – shaking hands in the Crimea, cutting ribbons at the latest Pushkin memorial, etc. Have a look at the Russian press and you’ll struggle to find any serious criticism of the regime.


    December 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm

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